October 27, 2017
As early as next year, Amazon could unveil their new wearable tech, Alexa Smart Specs. Like the visionary but unsuccessful Google Glass of several years ago, the Alexa Smart Specs will attempt to allow users to leverage AI and the web in a unique seamless experience. The Smart Specs, however, have learned from the mistakes of the Google Glass and hopefully offer a better alternative.
Where Google Glass Failed
One could argue that Google Glass failed, because the beta was released before its time. Launching in March 2013, Google opened a beta test for 8,000 users and a wider beta soon after. The device featured a touchpad on the side to swipe though the interface and a small crystal screen in the top right field of vision. It also had a camera, and the user could access the online features of the device without hampering their vision in the physical world. The device could also be controlled with voice commands.
Among the problems with Google Glass were its privacy concerns. It gave users a camera on their face that they can use to take pictures or record video at any time without the permission of others. There was a fear that the device could be used to identify strangers using facial recognition apps.
In addition, there were also safety concerns. Though the device did not block the user’s field of vision, it was certainly a distraction. Several states and the UK began to pass legislation forbidding the use of the device while operating a motor vehicle.
The final issue that arose from Google Glass was a cultural one. People found it off-putting to converse with someone wearing Google Glass. Their eyes would habitually wander to that top right screen to view whatever information the glasses were displaying. It was deemed rude, and soon after people starting using the term “Glass-Holes” to describe those distracted by their own smart specs.
Learning from Mistakes with Alexa Smart Specs
The first smart move by Amazon was to hire Babak Parviz, founder of Google Glass, to work closely on the project. If anyone can improve upon the shortcomings of the original idea, it would be him. From there, Alex Smart Specs seek to serve a different purpose.
Google Glass wanted to be a new smart device attached to your face to turn a normal online experience into augmented reality. Alexa Smart Specs are instead merely trying to bring the existing Alexa AI with you wherever you go. Instead of issuing commands to a static tower in your kitchen, the glasses themselves would be your extension to Alexa.
- No Screen, No Earbuds: The Alexa Smart Specs have no use for a screen. Instead of displaying information on a screen, Alexa will speak directly into your ear without earbuds using a bone-conduction audio system.
- Resemble Normal Glasses: Google Glasses looked distinctly like regular glasses, but the Alexa Smart Specs have no screen or earbuds to give them away. They will resemble normal eye glasses.
- Syncs with Smartphone: The device will connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone and Amazon account.
- Longer Battery Life: Because the device does not need to power earbuds or a screen, they will be able to conserve energy and have a longer battery life.
Use and Applications
The scope of the Smart Specs is more limited without a screen, but perhaps that will make it more appealing. Rather than a device that is front and center in your everyday interactions, (you always see the Glass, and everyone always sees it on your face) the Smart Specs can remain a helpful advisor when you need it. Of course, without an official product announcement from Amazon none of this information is final. We’ll have to wait to see what the actual device looks like next year.
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